Roughly one month ago, Sen. Mitt Romney seemed like a very real possibility.
The former Massachusetts governor was reportedly seriously considering running for Senate in his new home state of Utah, under the condition that the state’s longtime senator, Orrin Hatch, decided not to run for re-election in 2018. And indeed, Hatch was reportedly telling friends he wouldn’t. The 83-year-old Republican had even blessed Romney as his “perfect” replacement.
Romney, 70, is viewed as a virtual lock to win if he chooses to run for the Senate seat (and Hatch doesn’t), with hypothetical polls showing he’d beat his potential Democratic opponent in the heavily Republican, heavily Mormon state by an increasingly huge margin.
However, it seems Romney’s possible bid has another opponent: his old frenemy Donald Trump.
As the president visited Utah on Monday, he also was embarking on a behind-the-scenes campaign to convince Hatch not to retire, according to Politico.
“Orrin, I really hope you will consider running again,” Trump reportedly told the seven-term senator in a phone call in October. Hatch, who is flying to Utah and back Monday with Trump on Air Force One, has been one of the president’s most loyal and outspoken supporters in the Senate.
Thank you @SenOrrinHatch. Let’s continue MAKING AMERICA GREAT AGAIN! https://t.co/PIv9OAVZcf pic.twitter.com/6egRvuwj1l
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 30, 2017
Trump also encouraged Hatch to seek re-election in March, before the prospect of Romney’s potential Senate run had even cropped up. During their event Monday at the Utah State Capitol, Trump said he hoped the Utahn would stay in the Senate “for a very long time to come.”
But according to Politico, it’s not all about Hatch’s unwavering support.
“There’s widespread concern within the White House that Romney in the Senate could make Trump’s life difficult,” reported Politico’s Alex Isenstadt, noting Romney’s vociferous condemnations of Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign.
Such concern apparently exists outside the White House as well.
According to the Washington Examiner, former Trump adviser and Breitbart chairman Steve Bannon — who was previously recruiting far-right candidates to challenge Hatch in a primary — is now considering endorsing the incumbent senator for re-election.
Despite the Breitbart chairman’s declarations of “war” against the Republican establishment, Hatch — the longest serving current Republican senator and “ally” to Senate Majority Leader (and Breitbart nemesis) Mitch McConnell — is a more preferable choice than Romney.
“If Steve had a choice between Orrin Hatch and Mitt Romney, he would pick Hatch 10 times out of 10,” an unnamed source close to Bannon told the Examiner.
According to Politico, Romney himself has grown frustrated by the “ongoing uncertainty” about Hatch’s future plans, especially after the senator encouraged him to consider run in the first place.
Hatch’s office has repeatedly said he will make a decision by the end of the year....Read more